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    Ben Needham

    To share my experience from last year in the hope of encouraging everyone with any slight doubts to stop thinking and just do!

    I drove down to Milan from the UK in a mini-bus with 9 friends. We stayed at Camping F1 (the site that backs onto the pit straight) and had an absolute blast! The racing was mega, the sun was out, the food was superb, the beer was cold, the atmosphere was unbelievable and the fans were loud. I can’t give higher praise than that.

    We only had general admission tickets but managed to make use of the free roaming grandstand access on Friday, then on Saturday we managed to get good standing spots on the inside of the track on the exit of the first chicane. We also had a good walk around the old banking (steep!).

    Sunday is where it gets really good… on Saturday night we drove the minibus right up to the fence on the camp site backing onto the pit straight next to the first corner… come Sunday morning we climbed onto the roof of the minibus and enjoyed the sun until the race started; which we viewed from the best seats in the house at the first corner!

    Not sure if anyone could recreate that – but if you can; well worth doing!

    It was genuinely the trip of a lifetime and if I get the chance to do it again; I most certainly will!

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    Ben Needham

    Not ranked as there’s not enough to go by:
    Andre Lotterer
    Will Stevens

    22: Sutil – with his experience, should have taken a few points but was poor all year.
    21: Chilton – Outdone by Bianchi, but was once again reasonably reliable.
    20: Gutierrez – as bad as Sutil, but could use the inexperience card!
    19: Ericsson – behind Kobayashi most of the year, but improved when the car was modified in his favour. Still, in my opinion, undeserving of a promotion (?!) to Sauber for 2015.
    18: Maldonado – added to his catalogue of errors early in the year and just generally didn’t impress, with the exception of a few races.
    17: Kobayashi – nothing to suggest that he outdrove the car at any point, while in general comfortably ahead of Ericsson.
    16: Raikkonen – a bit harsh perhaps; but Kimi was well and truly trounced by Alonso and came nowhere near to a high points scoring finish. Never shockingly bad but there were no high points.
    15: Magnussen – a cracking start petered out very quickly and he was never close to Button at the end of the year.
    14: Grosjean – in truth, I didn’t see any major moments to indicate he was having a good year. Clearly better than Maldonado though and deserving of a good car.
    13: Vettel – falling through the rankings with the same card as Kimi and Kevin, a driver must always be measured against his team-mate, and was consistently far behind Ricciardo.
    12: Hulkenberg – Hulkenberg wasn’t exactly poor, but once again never had the high points that Perez had. Still deserving of a top drive in my opinion, but I didn’t feel this was his best year.
    11: Perez – Sergio once again had higher high’s and lower low’s than the man in the other car, but I feel he was better than Hulkenberg this year.
    10: Kvyat – Had some very good high points and was generally an equal to Vergne, but still had some inconsistencies to iron out.
    9: Bianchi – Maybe a little biased ranking, but I felt his battling Monaco drive was worth it. An amazing high for the team and a driver with so much potential. I hope, but don’t expect, to see him back soon.
    8: Vergne – Some great drives, especially after he’d been dropped. Generally very impressive and in my opinion more deserving of the Red Bull drive than Kvyat.
    7: Massa – Improved from Monza onwards and was very impressive in the final two races. While Bottas is, in most eyes, better, Massa will prove a worthy opponent should Williams be fighting for wins next year.
    6: Button – Was immense in the second half of the year, crushing Magnussen and really putting the McLaren where it didn’t deserve to be. Would be insulting to drop him.
    5: Rosberg – I didn’t rate his season as well as some other people. Slower than Hamilton at almost every race, I think he was in the Championship battle more by Hamilton’s misfortune than by anything else. Still had good drives and good wins, but will be nowhere near next year all being equal.
    4: Alonso – Was far better than Raikkonen but still wasn’t one of his golden season’s like 2012. Mainly because the car didn’t allow it. The right time to leave Ferrari with his huge reputation in tact.
    3: Bottas – An interesting prospect but I don’t remember any killer drives like Ricciardo. He was almost on the podium by default in some places, but was still brilliantly fast and generally better than Massa.
    2: Ricciardo – Ask me in September and Ricciardo would be easily top driver this year. He was so much better than Vettel it was embarrasing. Could have been champion with a better Bull.
    1: Hamilton – In my opinion, easily the fastest driver this year. Won every race he could and soundly beat Rosberg on the track and in the standings.

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    Ben Needham

    I went to the 2008 British Grand Prix and it was superb! A great race, plenty of overtaking, differing strategies, bad weather, spins, crashes and terrific atmosphere… a classic British Grand Prix. But I would have loved to have been there for one of the famous Mansell victories, probably 1987. I bet the atmosphere was electric!

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    Ben Needham

    I started watching very young and remember every season from 1997 very well (with a few scattered memories before that).

    Since then my favourite seasons have been 1999, 2003, 2007, 2010 and 2012.

    The main things that constitute a great season for me are controversy, title fights, new faces at the front and tension throughout. These seasons certainly had oodles of all of that!

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    Ben Needham

    I’ve just returned from an unbelievably superb weekend at Monza! A group of 11 of us left the UK on Wednesday night in a mini bus and enjoyed a few drinks, stunning scenery and very little sleep, while arriving in time to set up at the Camping F1 site on Thursday evening (we missed the pit walk!).

    While the weekend was brilliant for a number of reasons, I’ll stick to the racing part of it for this in order to advise (/insist) that you go next year!

    There were roving grandstands on Friday, and we made use of them by sitting at Variante Ascari for FP1, before shifting to the first chicane for FP2. The weather was excellent (except for a brief shower), and it was stunning to see the cars throwing themselves at the first corner shining in the sun. The tifosi were obviously keen on the Ferrari’s and it was slightly infectious! (There seemed to be more support for Kimi than for Alonso…).

    For Saturday we managed to set up on the exit of the first chicane; building our own grandstand from wood we found in the park. This left us with a sweaty, satisfied and hungry team; with a great view of the cars through the first corner, and a sneak peak at a couple of screens to see Hamilton take pole. The Italians were surprisingly very keen on Hamilton and we were joined in our support for him by many of our fellow spectators!

    On Sunday – we realised that our Saturday set-up would likely be sieged early on by another group of fans, so hastily came up with a plan B! One side of our campsite ran from the exit of the pits up to the first chicane, so we craftily parked our mini bus at the fencing the night before. A leisurely start and a bit of a climb later – we were sat on top of it, in the sun, a cold beer and nibbles accompanying a stunning view of 22 cars piling into the first corner. We were a little disappointed that Hamilton wasn’t first, but it made for a lot of excitement seeing Rosberg being reeled back in again. At the end, the gates opened and we ran to the podium celebration; an incredible experience to be a part of the famous tifosi.

    We had our own twist on walking the circuit once everything had died down… being a tad naughty, we had borrowed some shopping trolley’s from Lidl, and took them onto the circuit, staging our own race around the entire circuit; one sat inside, with another as ‘the engine’. Our laptime of 1hr:03mins wasn’t quite fast enough for pole though…

    It was truly amazing; for so many reasons, and I cannot reccommend it enough; it’s a must for all F1Fanatics – and at £80 for an early bird (January) three day ticket, it’s a steal compared to Silverstone!

    We spent an additional £300 each on travel, camping and food and lived handsomely on Italian pizza’s and (possibly a few too many) beers.

    …needless to say, work is a little bit tricky and dull today!

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    Ben Needham

    I think the experience is what you make it, and honestly, I believe that if you research well, know what the good bits and bad bits are, you’ll have a great time wherever you go!

    I’ve been to Silverstone, Spa and Monza, and they are such different experiences, but I loved them all as much as each other for different reasons!

    Take Spa for example – we knew the weather would be rubbish, so prepared accordingly and enjoyed the downpour rather than let it ruin the weekend!

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    Ben Needham

    Good point – I’d imagine Grosjean would be more likely to turn up at McLaren. To be honest, I can certainly see this being Button’s last year, as McLaren seem adamant on pushing him out – preferably for Alonso it would seem.

    I always love silly season; I can’t wait to see who makes the first unexpected move!

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    Ben Needham

    I don’t think we’ll see too many changes at the top end of the grid, unless one of the Mercedes drivers decides he can’t work with the other/the team. I like the Vettel to McLaren rumours as I’d love to see him try his luck elsewhere… as well as free a Red Bull seat for Vergne or Kvyat?

    If Rosberg or Hamilton leaves, then I struggle to see where they would go? Red Bull have a queue of drivers, so if a seat became vacant there it would surely go to one of their young drivers now that Ricciardo has been shown to be beyond competent.

    Would Nico or Lewis want to go to Ferrari? Probably not, especially with Alonso there (assuming Kimi would be the one to vacate). McLaren? It’s a gamble, but a possibility. The only other realistic option is Williams, who could look to replace the ever more accident-prone Massa. In reality I think the best option for Mercedes, for Lewis, for Nico and for F1 is for them to stay put.

    My current prediction:
    Mercedes: Hamilton, Rosberg
    Red Bull: Ricciardo, Vettel
    Ferrari: Alonso, Raikkonen
    Williams: Bottas, Massa
    McLaren: Hulkenberg, Magnussen
    Force India: Perez, Grosjean
    Toro Rosso: Kvyat, Verstappen
    Lotus: Vergne, Maldonado
    Marussia: Bianchi, Rossi
    Sauber: Gutierrez, van der Garde
    Caterham: $$$, $$$

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    Ben Needham

    I was 8 years old when I attended the 2000 British Grand Prix with my Dad and brother. It was such a surreal experience, having watched Formula One from (so I’m told) the age of 1 with my Dad!

    It was Easter Day and my brother and I were kitted out with ear defenders, camping chairs and Easter eggs! The traffic was a nightmare but we still got good seats in time for the start and the traditional Red Arrows display.

    David Coulthard won the race, but my main memory is Jacques Villeneuve in the BAR battling Ralf Schumacher in his Williams BMW before Villeneuve retired.

    I still remember feeling utterly awed by it all, seeing the familiar cars so close up… even at that age I could tell my Dad which driver was which; including Mazzacane and Zonta.

    The next Grand prix I got to following that was thee 2008 British Grand Prix… which was completely amazing!

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    Ben Needham

    @juniper – it’s quite busy there on the Thursday, and I can’t quite remember the time the pit lane opens… 4pm rings a bell. My advice is to get there at least an hour early (remember your three day ticket) in order to get to the front of the queue and maximise your time there.

    If you wait outside the right garages at the right time, you’ll see some famous faces so even if you’re getting bored standing and waiting, hold out… we saw Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel last year.

    It’s a great start to the weekend and really enjoyable to just be at the circuit, looking down to Eau Rouge.

    You’ve made a great choice with L’Eau Rouge… a really nice, scenic site… quiet enough for sleep but enough atmosphere to keep your excitement up. One thing I’d recommend is wet-wipes to get rid of mud, sweat, rain etc as there is often a long queue for showers.

    Hope you have a great time.

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    Ben Needham

    Depending on what time you arrive at on Thursday – I would definitely recommend the pit walk. The teams and drivers are very accessible and it gives you a unique opportunity to get pictures on the start/finish straight!

    With regards to the fence climbing… this is just one option in order to get across quickly – there are other way to get onto the track and the marshalls will help you out as well once it becomes clear that the track is already infested with people!

    People there are very helpful and will point you in the right direction for anything you need. It was one of the most laid back trips I’ve had, everything just flowed incredibly well… so don’t panic!

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    Ben Needham

    Hi @Gazo76,

    I can offer a few words of advice! Where abouts are you camping? Is it the L’Eau Rouge site? If it is, then it’s perfect, you have nothing to worry about there! Clean, friendly and an odd sense of buzz despite there being enough quiet for some sleep!

    One thing you will have already been aware of is the weather. It will rain. No one knows when, no one knows where, but it definitely will! Take an umbrella! Not sure if you’ll manage it on the coach, but we took a tarpaulin which we sat on and flipped over our heads when it did rain. Stayed bone dry!

    In terms of money – it depends what you’re doing. We went into Malmedy and Stavelot every night and ate out… for this for three/four nights you’re probably looking at 100euros each to eat really well… we’re talking top steaks! Though of course, if you’d prefer to have a quiet BBQ each night or chips or something you’re probably looking at 20euros per person. There’s a good little shop in Malmedy with good prices (pretty much the Belgian equivalent of the Co-op!).

    Walking around the track is only do-able after each day’s action. We managed to do the pit area, old bus stop chicane etc on the Thursday afternoon, then on Sunday after the race managed to do almost the entire remainder of the circuit. Everyone jumps over the fence after the race… it just happens and is great fun, if you can physically do it… it’s quite high.

    Most of all – just have a great time! Enjoy being there… I’m very jealous as I loved Spa – though I’m going to Monza instead this year!

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    Ben Needham

    Hi Mark,

    Firstly, congratulations on your impending marriage! I did the same a few months ago, though no matter how hard I begged I wasn’t allowed anywhere near a Grand Prix for our honeymoon!

    I went to Spa last year and camped at L’Eau Rouge (next to the river which gives the corner it’s name!). We rode bikes from there to the circuit every day. So while I can’t give any pointers on where to park your car etc, I can certainly tell you that you’ll be able to lock your bikes up within about 10 metres of any entrance to the circuit.

    Depending on the route you take as well, it’s reasonably flat, but I’d recommend sturdy shoes once you’re inside as it’s remarkably hilly.

    You’ll have a great time – I’m very jealous (though I’m off to Monza this time next month!)

    Enjoy newly-weds!

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    Ben Needham

    We have general admission access for all three days. Does anyone have any experience of this?

    Any good spots we should go to view from? Is it easy to walk the circuit? What time should we get there on the Sunday to ensure ‘front row seats’?

    Can’t wait. We did Spa last year and it was amazing.

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    Ben Needham

    Hi Jamie ( @jmq1 ),

    Well done for booking tickets – it’s a great experience!

    I went last year and drove there so can’t help with any flight experience, but maybe I can help with your timings. The pit lane is open on Thursday to everyone with 3-day tickets, it was a nice opportunity to familiarise ourselves with the surroundings and we got up close to all the garages, and saw Vettel and Hamilton. I would recommend getting there early as the queue is quite big.

    In terms of returning home on Sunday, I’d say the flight departing at 20:50 would give you plenty of time. You should easily have left the circuit by 4pm, so you should be fine.

Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 103 total)